Where Are They Now? – Sir Alex Ferguson’s Last Man United Eleven

On the 19th of May 2013, Manchester United’s most successful manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired from football management.

Fergie has been the best gaffer to grace the Premier League, with the Scotsman winning thirteen English top flight titles. His success lasted until the end as he secured his last title in his last season!

Throughout his time at Old Trafford, Sir Alex managed some brilliant world class talent. He also bossed some iffy players that didn’t hit the heights at United.

In his final game, Man United drew 5-5 with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns (Match Report – Sky Sports). ironically Romelu Lukaku, who has just left United himself, scored a hat-trick for the opposition that day.

Looking at that final starting eleven, a lot of those were players that didn’t realise their full potential at Man United.

So where are they now?

ANDERS LINDEGAARD

It’s strange to think that the Danish keeper fought tooth and nail for the number one jersey with David De Gea when the Spaniard first joined Man Utd.

Fast forward to the present day and De Gea is still United’s starting goalkeeper and one of the best shot-stoppers in the world, while has just joined Swedish side Helsingborg IF.

After losing his fight with De Gea, the Danish keeper left for West Brom in 2015 but he couldn’t win a spot in their team either. He would then have a spell in the Championship with Preston North End.

Anders finished his stint in England as the number four choice at Burnley. This summer he signed a two year deal with Helsingborg (Tipsbaldet), playing under one time United striker Henrik Larsson.

ANTONIO VALENCIA

The Ecuadorian winger joined Man Utd in 2019 and played at Old Trafford for ten years.

A big part of that was that he was industrious and would eventually fall back into the right-back position further down the role. Would often get up and down the line, working hard in getting the ball back and providing assists for teammates.

Would eventually become club captain in his final season but then had injury issues and couldn’t regain his place in the starting line-up.

Valencia left The Red Devils after playing 339 times for United and winning six major trophies with the club. Joined Ecuadorian side LDU Quito this summer.

ALEXANDER BÜTTNER

The Dutch left-back is one of those players that you forgot played for Man United. He joined as an understudy to Patrice Evra and always looked pretty raw in a United jersey.

In the end he only stayed at Old Trafford for two years, playing just thirteen league games before leaving for Dynamo Moscow. He couldn’t sustain his early promise there and spent a time on loan at Anderlecht before rejoining his first club Vitesse.

The left-sided fullback is now thirty years old and has still to reach 200 league appearances. In fact the Dutchman hasn’t played in 20 league games or more since his first stint at Vitesse in 2011-12.

JONNY EVANS

The Northern Ireland international worked his way through the youth ranks at United before making his senior debut for the club in 2007.

In the seasons after that he was a player that would come in if either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand was missing from the starting line-up. He ended up making his most league appearances for The Red Devils during Fergie’s last term in charge. He would win three Premier League titles with the Manchester giants.

Left United in 2015 after Louis van Gaal clearly didn’t fancy him. He then impressed during his three years before joining Leicester City last year.

Is a smart pacy centre-back, who has the ability to pass the ball out of defence. Was probably unlucky that Ferguson retired when he did.

PHIL JONES

A player that’s still at the club but also a player that’s not reached his full potential at Man United.

Made his most appearances as a youngster during his debut year at United playing under Sir Alex and that was in the 2011-12 season. Joined from Blackburn Rovers for a reported £16.5m fee, with Fergie admiring the player’s commitment and leadership skills.

Unfortunately for Phil, injuries have always seemed to hamper him when he finally seems to find any form.

He’s fast becoming a caricature of himself, known more for his gurning faces rather than his tackles.

As I said, he’s still at Man Utd but is struggling to break into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this term with the Norwegian preferring Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

MICHAEL CARRICK

Carrick won numerous trophies with Manchester United, including the Champions League in 2008.

The midfielder was a classy operator who made things tick in the engine room. Was a player that was consistently selected, even after Fergie’s retirement. He could also play as a makeshift centre-half when required.

He became club captain in 2017 after Wayne Rooney’s departure. Michael retired as a player in 2018 after giving twelve years of service.

The former English international is now a first team coach at Old Trafford, working under current gaffer Solskjaer.

ANDERSON

The Brazilian was meant to be a superstar in the making when he joined from Porto for €30m in 2007.

Was meant to be a sublime number ten but the attacking midfielder never seemed to really get going at United.

Fergie didn’t have the best of times when working with Brazilian midfielders with Kleberson and Fabio Rochemback also failing to shine.

Anderson was technically good and had an eye for a pass but he had injury problems and often looked too heavy.

Stayed on at Man United for eight years and made 181 appearances and scoring just nine times. Went back to Brazil and played with Internacional and Coritiba. Last summer Anderson joined Turkish second tier side Adana Demirspor.

A player that just didn’t reach his potential.

TOM CLEVERLY

Tom was a young midfielder that came up through the ranks at Man United. He went out on various loan deals but did manage to break into the United senior side for Sir Alex’s last season in charge.

Kept his place within the squad during David Moyes tenure but then dropped out of the first team picture and ended up moving to Everton.

Has since joined Watford but missed a chunk of last season due to an achilles tendon injury.

A player that was always a decent back-up but not one that was really going to command a starting place in a Man United eleven. Will play with fellow former United graduate Danny Welbeck this season.

SHINJI KAGAWA

Shinji probably became the Asian Juan Sebastien Veron at Man United and that’s not a compliment. In that regard he was great in a foreign league but couldn’t do the same in England.

I don’t think it was really the player’s fault as much as managers struggled to find his best position. He would get crowded out by Wayne Rooney. Kagawa just didn’t get too much of a chance to shine in the number ten role.

The Japanese star lasted just two seasons at Old Trafford before returning to Borussia Dortmund.

Returned to form in Germany until injury struck and he was sold to Spanish second division side Real Zaragoza this summer!

ROBIN VAN PERSIE

Was the last superstar signing of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, arriving from Arsenal in 2012. He repaid Fergie’s faith in him by scoring twenty-six league goals in his maiden season as a Red Devil.

The gifted striker played a huge part in helping Fergie secure that last Premier League title. He bagged a wonderful hat-trick against Aston Villa in April 2013 in the game that confirmed the title that year!

The player was deeply disappointed by Ferguson’s decision to retire, as stated by teammate Rio Ferdinand:

‘The person it hit more than anyone was Robin. He’d come the year before, tasted that success and wanted more.’

‘Visually you could see it hit him harder than anyone else at the time.’

Via The Telegraph

Van Persie was never as prolific under Moyes or Van Gaal and left three years after signing for United. Injuries once again hampered his career, although he left with a healthy scoring record of 58 goals in 105 appearances.

The ageing attacker then had two seasons in Turkey with Fenerbahce before ending his career this summer after a second spell with first club Feyenoord. Robin is now a pundit with BT Sport.

JAVIER HERNANDEZ

Fergie loved the Mexican and the striker enjoyed four full seasons at the club.

The striker would come alive in the penalty area and was a lover of a patcher’s finish. Ferguson seemed to treat the forward like Solskjaer and use him as a super-sub.

Wasn’t given the same game time under Moyes or Van Gaal, as those two coaches didn’t seem to appreciate the need to reliable squad players.

Had a loan spell at Real Madrid before being a prolific goalscorer for Bayer Leverkusen.

Is back in the Premier League with West Ham United and has bagged a goal this term.

Man United Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Needs To Grow A Pair & Pick A Penalty Kick Taker

Manchester United have played two Premier League games thus far and have won two penalties.

They scored one in their opening weekend win over Chelsea and then missed the other last night.

Forward Marcus Rashford scored his, while midfielder Paul Pogba saw his effort saved.

It transpired that on each occasion both players had a discussion and the player that had won the penalty was given the responsibility of putting it away.

After last night’s draw with Wolves (The Guardian), United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cleared up the situation by stating it was between the two players who would take a penalty as and when they occurred:

“Not at all, the two of them are confident and good penalty takers,”

“And I’ve been in that situation myself and missed a penalty for Norway, and when there are two names there it’s the one who’s the most confident.”

“It doesn’t have to be [one designated taker], no. Because sometimes in a game you do grow in confidence, sometimes ‘I don’t want to take it today because I had a bad day’. Absolutely no problem with players walking up and saying, ‘this is mine’.”

Via Manchester Evening News

Personally I don’t think Ole is doing his job properly here. You need to have a designated number one penalty taker.

The two minute confab between players leading up to a penalty just adds confusion and tension to an already tense occasion.

A player should know before he goes on to the field that he’s the one that will take the spot kick if one is given. It clears that player’s mind and that of his teammates.

By all means have a number two and even a number three in case of injuries or substitutions. Also if your number one guy doesn’t feel confident then he knows who to turn to if doesn’t fancy taking it.

I really don’t get leaving it to the person that feels the most confident. Both players are supremely confident young men and both love getting on the scoresheet. So it actually looks as though the first to the ball gets the call.

I also think that Solskjaer has to assert his authority. I seriously doubt Sir Alex Ferguson would leave such a big decision to be made by the players on the park.

It’s crazy to think that so much of football is now detailed to the last iota and that it’s become a science as well as a sport, yet a big club like Man United don’t have a preferred penalty kick taker.

For me, it’s obvious that Marcus Rashford should be the man to take United’s penalties.

The twenty-one year old has taken three penalties in senior football and scored all three. He scored his first against PSG in the Champions League under immense pressure and smashed it (Watch it on ManUtd.com). That proves he’s got the right mindset to step up and put away a huge penalty!

Why make him fight for an opportunity that he’s clearly earned?

Paul Pogba on the other hand has missed four in the last year!

To be fair to the Frenchman his penalty against Wolves wasn’t bad and Rui Patricio deserves credit for the save but Paul still failed to score and that cost his side a victory last night.

I really think it’s time Solskjaer sits the two down and says from now on Rashford will be the main man for penalties. If he misses one, then Pogba will get his chance again.

Make the players aware up front as that will best prepare them for the event and then make them responsible for keeping the duty. It’s really that simple!

Chelsea’s Mr Reliable Cesar Azpilicueta Isn’t Mr Reliable This Season!

Let me start this blog by stating that I’ve loved watching Cesar Azpilicueta since he arrived at Chelsea in 2012.

Back in January 2017, I stated that I felt he was Chelsea’s best player that season.

He’s a consistent and reliable performer, hence why since his arrival in 2012 only goalkeepers David De Gea and Hugo Lloris have played more minutes in the Premier League.

At twenty-nine years of age; Cesar has won two league titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Europa League triumphs.

The Spanish international is a strong versatile defender. He came to Stamford Bridge as a right-back but one of his first tasks at the club was to usher longterm left-back hero Ashley Cole out of his position at the club. As well as playing on either side as a fullback, the committed talent has also been used in the centre-back role.

Under new manager Frank Lampard, Chelsea have a younger defence than they’ve been used to in the past. That was re-emphasised when the club allowed veteran Brazilian centre-back David Luiz to join London rivals Arsenal this summer (Via Skysports).

This term has seen Azpilicueta return to his right back slot, with young duo Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen the new centre back partnership. After struggling to break into the team in recent seasons, Emerson Palmieri seems to be Lampard’s first choice right back. The Blues also have a young number one in goalkeeper Kepa.

That means club captain Cesar is the leader and the elder statesman at the back.

The problem is that the Spaniard has had a pretty poor start to the season for The Blues.

Durning the opening weekend of the season, Chelsea were stuffed 4-0 by Manchester United (BBC Match Report).

Too many times Cesar was caught too far up field. Positionally the captain cost his team two goals because he either switched off, ran out of gas or wasn’t aware of his surroundings. The defender lost possession on twenty-two occasions that day, more than any other player!

Against Leicester City this past weekend, the experienced campaigner was caught under the ball for the corner that led to Wilfred Ndidi’s goal. Azpilicueta needs to react quicker as the cross gets played in and make sure he’s first to the ball. He was flatfooted and that gave Ndidi the opportunity to out jump him. That goal saw Chelsea drop from three points to just one in their first two league games of the season.

While he was better in the Super Cup loss to Liverpool, it was still the experienced defender who caused the mistake that allowed The Reds back into the game. He didn’t step up with everyone else and that meant the Liverpool forward line were onside as they found an equaliser.

These are mistakes that we simply aren’t used to seeing from Cesar Azpilicueta at Chelsea.

Obviously the whole Chelsea squad are working on a new project and are getting used to what Frank Lampard expects from them. There’s being teething problems and that’s to be expected. I doubt anyone thought Cesar was going to be the club’s weakest link in their opening two Premier League games.

Ironically after Azpilicueta pushed an ageing Ashley Cole out of the Chelsea team when he first arrived, the Spaniard could now come under pressure from youngster Reece James.

Mr Reliable Cesar Azpilicueta has to regain his defensive consistency and once again lead by example, if he can’t then he’ll become too much of a liability and that might see gaffer Lampard having to axe his captain!

Joe Aribo Already A Star At Rangers

Copyright – Rangers.co.uk

Rangers made it eight wins in their first nine competitive fixtures of the season with their 3-0 League Cup win over East Fife earlier today (Match Report – Daily Record).

Summer signing Joe Aribo has instantly settled into this Gers set-up and he looks to be a terrific signing. The young midfielder is a constant attacking threat and he also wins the ball in dangerous positions.

The twenty-three year old has played in eight occasions so far for the Light Blues and has contributed with four goals, he notched up today’s final strike.

Whenever the ball goes out wide to one of the wingers or if the main striker has possession of the ball, Aribo has the fantastic timing to pick his runs to get into the box or beyond the lone number nine. The midfielder also has a pretty good engine and that makes things hard for the opposition as he’s constantly running into dangerous positions.

He’s managed to score with both feet and from either side of the pitch too, which shows us that he’s a versatile performer. Aribo seems to like low placed shots and often takes those efforts as early as possible, giving goalkeepers less time to prepare.

The player is also very comfortable with the ball at his feet, he has the skills to beat opponents and he doesn’t hide from a pass!

It’s funny to think that his former Charlton Athletic gaffer Lee Bowyer was very dismissive of Aribo’s move to Scotland and even slated the player’s choice:

“I worked so hard to get him to this situation he is in now,”

“It is about progression for him. So it’s a shame if he gets pushed to somewhere where it is not going to benefit him in his football career.” 

“If he goes to Rangers that is not the right place for him to go for his football career.”

“When people from England go and play for Celtic and Rangers it is at the end of their careers. That’s because it is very rare you get a move from Rangers to the Premier League, and I don’t mean any disrespect by that.” 

Via Talksport

But let’s look at Aribo’s first eight games, five of those were in the Europa League and he’s grabbed three goals in that competition.

At Rangers he’ll be challenged to win every single game and go after every trophy that the team are competing for. You don’t get that in the English Championship or at a lower level Premier League side. You should never underestimate the winning mentality you get when you’re asked to play for one of the Glasgow giants.

Bowyer also suggests that players don’t go from Ibrox to the England’s top flight. That might have been the case during Gers years working their way back to Scottish Premiership but before that many a player would make that particular move.

Looking at the Premier League this year; you’ve got players like Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Kenny McLean, John Fleck and John McGinn who Rhave all done well after coming down from Scotland. So scouts are definitely coming to Scottish stadia.

The exciting midfielder has also received his first call-up for the Nigerian international side after just a few appearances for Rangers.

To be fair Bowyer did say that he could see why Joe would want to work under Gers boss Steven Gerrard.

The former Liverpool captain was one of England’s best box to box midfielders and Aribo will only learn playing under a manager that’s has all the experience of playing in the same position.

Gerrard singled Joe Aribo for praise after yet another great performance for the Light Blues today:

“Everyone will go away talking about Joe Aribo and rightly so. I am not sure how many good players have been at this stadium but I don’t think you will see many better than Joe.”

“He was outstanding from start to finish. He looked superb all day. He has four goals in eight games but it isn’t just about that it is about your all round performances.”

“Top players turn up anywhere, it doesn’t matter if it is in front of 50,000, or 1,500, your standards are always the same and from day one Joe has done that.”

Via The Herald

Gerrard clearly admires that Aribo gives 100% no matter the opposition. The Gers gaffer is a manager that values consistency and work ethic beyond anything else and Joe gives him both in spades.

Yes the midfielder will come up against tougher opposition and more strenuous challenges as the season goes on but he’s fast becoming a fan favourite and looks to be a player that will thrive under the pressure of producing week in and week out!

Dani Ceballos Could Give Arsenal More Than Ozil & Mkhitaryan!

That’s two wins out of two in the Premier League for The Arsenal as they managed to edge out Burnley earlier today at The Emirates (BBC Match Report).

A standout performer in The Gunners 2-1 victory was Spanish creative midfielder Dani Ceballos.

The Real Madrid loanee made his full debut in the number ten role and he did well as he covered every blade of grass. He also managed to hustle and win the ball back for his team in deep positions inside the opposition’s half of the field.

The twenty-three year old had a 90% passing success rate and no player on the park better his 70 passes throughout the game. He created assists for Arsenal forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Spanish international also had the most amount of touches. Dani also managed to make four successful dribbles out of four attempts (Stats from Whoscored).

Two fellow midfield maestros Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil didn’t play today and both might be a bit nervous of their places in this current Arsenal starting eleven.

Henrikh and Ozil might have better CVs but they haven’t always turned up for The Gunners during their careers at The Emirates, especially in the bigger important encounters.

Arsenal fans believe the duo sometimes lack passion and won’t give 100% for the shirt. They are very nice when on the ball but they won’t fight to get it back and they can’t seem to get round the pitch and dictate things for the team.

Dani showed today that you can play in the attacking midfield position, be creative for your forwards and also help out your midfield teammates by tracking back and pressing up field too.

Gunners legend Martin Keown was extremely pleased with Ceballos’ performance against The Clarets:

‘Well it’s been a few years I think since they’ve seen someone this talented in the Arsenal midfield, with the confidence, panache, vision and desire to get on the ball,’

Via The Metro

It’s fantastic to see a player being so influential during their first full game for their new club. He got a standing ovation after being subbed off on the eighty third minute and also won the man of the match award.

The Spanish star wasn’t phased by anything Burnley threw at him. I’m sure Gunners gaffer Unai Emery will be delighted that he has someone that can help both the attack and the midfield when it comes to breaking through lines and winning the ball back.

Arsenal supporters might believe that they have the new Santi Cazorla in Dani Ceballos. They’ll be hoping that there’s a clause inserted into the deal with Real Madrid that can see the midfield playmaker join the London giants permanently once his loan deal comes to an end next summer.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil might not be as pleased to see Dani Ceballos shine as he could be a player that limits them to less minutes on the field this season!

Assessing Alexis Sanchez’s Future At Manchester United

There’s no doubt that more was expected of Alexis Sanchez when he joined Manchester United in January 2018.

The Chilean had been a live-wire at Arsenal and had proved himself a very creative and reliable forward in the Premier League.

Yet now seventeen months after his move to Old Trafford his career has virtually come to a standstill.

Injuries and a severe lack of form has seen Alexis play forty-five times for United and only return with five goals. In his thirty-three league appearances the forward has only managed to create six assists. The United faithful would’ve been expecting him to hit double figures in both stat columns in just one season!

The thirty year old doesn’t look the same player as the one that was so instrumental at The Emirates. In truth he looks lost in a Red Devils jersey. It seems as though he’s lost a yard of pace and all of his confidence.

Reports suggest that Man United are willing to cut their losses on the high earner and let him leave for Europe this summer. Earlier this month The Telegraph stated that United were in talks with Roma about possibly loaning Sanchez to the Serie A club.

It’s also been speculated that United have ditched the international attacker to their reserves in a bid to push the Chilean out the door at Old Trafford.

Today, Man United gaffer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that the player did have a future at the club and rubbished the claims that Alexis had been sent to train with the reserve side:

Alexis is such a professional and he comes in working every single day really hard and he wants to be a part of this,”

“There are these stories he’s been put in the reserves – of course he hasn’t, he’s part of our squad and he is a really good player. He has had three weeks now, so he’s a few weeks behind the rest but close to being part of it.”

“We don’t have the biggest forward line in numbers so Alexis might end up playing a lot more games than you expect and we expect him to come good at this club, he’s quality.”

Via The Guardian

So does Sanchez really still have a future at Manchester United?

Well the next few weeks are going to be very telling.

I do believe Man Utd would sell or loan the forward out if the right offer was on the table. I don’t think he fully fits the system at United and he doesn’t fit the younger, hungrier ethos Solskjaer is trying to bring back to the Premier League giants.

The attacker is earning around £500k a week (Source The Sun). That’s a huge amount for a club to pay any player but especially to a player that can’t force their way into the team’s starting eleven. So of course it would make sense for them to offload at least some of that wage and get him a loan deal.

That being said Ole isn’t flat out lying either. He was never going to throw the player under the bus as that would see any interest in Alexis disappear.

United do also have a pretty threadbare frontline.

The front three that started in the recent 4-0 win over Chelsea of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lindgard and Marcus Rashford will probably be Solskjaer’s favoured attacking line-up.

I expect Mason Greenwood to get more exposure in the Man United attack and I also see Daniel James getting plenty of minutes on the wing after his summer move from Swansea City.

After that and we are talking about pushing an ageing Juan Mata further forward.

In that respect Sanchez does give Ole another viable attacking option.

If by some miracle Alexis Sanchez can rediscover his form of 2016-17, then he’d be in the first eleven. Unfortunately he hasn’t given any indication in the last seventeen months to suggest he’s capable of reaching those heights once again.

Personally I still think Manchester United will do everything possible to get rid of Sanchez this month. They’ll want to keep squad harmony and having your highest paid star on the bench or not even in the match day squad won’t help sustain that harmony.

Yet if he does stay, I would also expect him to get chances to shine. Man United have plenty of games what with the League Cup and the Europa League about to join the Premier League fixtures on United’s impending schedule.

Will he take those chances? Well thats the £500k a week question!

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson Is Captain Fantastic

Replacing Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s captain was never going to be an easy task.

Yet in 2015, Jordan Henderson was handed the armband and it has fitted him perfectly.

Just to still be in the first-team picture by that stage was almost a miracle for the midfielder.

When Brendan Rodgers took over at Anfield in 2012 it was believed that the new manager didn’t really fancy the £16m midfielder. Rodgers had brought in his own man in Joe Allen and was pushing forward without Henderson being thought of as a mainstay in his plans for the starting line-up.

In May 2018, Jordan explained that he was told by his then boss that he could leave Liverpool for Fulham in the summer of 2012:

“Brendan called me in and said “Listen, this is the offer” and he asked me what I thought,” 

“It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much. I had the game that night to think about it as well.”

“I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong.”

Source – Football.London

Fast forward seven years later and Jordan Henderson has just captained The Reds to the UEFA Super Cup, after captaining them to Champions League triumph back in May.

Time wasn’t as kind to Rodgers, who was sacked from his managerial role in Merseyside on the fourth of October 2015.

But in fairness to Brendan, he did give the battling midfielder a chance to prove himself at Anfield. The Northern Irish gaffer isn’t a man who’ll just dump a player and let him rot in the reserves. Henderson did what he said he’d do and worked hard to get into the team and then worked even harder to stay there.

He worked so hard and proved himself so invaluable to the team that it was indeed Brendan Rodgers who initially selected him as the new Liverpool captain once Gerrard departed for LA.

As an attribute, being a hard worker kind of sums up Henderson to a degree. He’s a player that will give 110% to the team’s cause. He will run down every blade of grass, make important tackles at any point in a game and will do whatever his manager asks of him.

Current Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has brought in various midfielders during his stint as Liverpool manager. But it’s not a coincidence that he continually uses the likes of James Milner, Giorginio Wijnaldum and Henderson. These players are his foot-soldiers on the pitch, they take his instruction to heart and they leave everything out there.

After using Henderson as a holding type middle-man for most of last year, Klopp has started this campaign by having his leader playing with more of an attacking intent. That sees the England international burst out down the right side more regularly than we’ve seen in the past. Having him in that role also shores up that flank of the field as he’ll work back and fill in whenever Trent Alexander-Arnold or Joe Gomez goes on the overlap.

Against Norwich City in the opening picture of the Premier League campaign Henderson played mainly inside the opposition’s half. Then in the penalties win over Chelsea in the Super Cup he was more restrained and tracked back more often.

In the league win over The Canaries only Andy Robertson bettered Henderson’s 73 touches of the ball. The midfielder made 54 passes, of which 83% of them were successful. He also won two tackles that night (Stats from Whoscored).

Another thing I personally love about Jordan’s game is that he will always back his teammates up.

Last season as Liverpool faced FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi got into a heated debate with Reds left-back Robertson. Henderson saw the situation right away and marched over to the Argentine forward and made it clear if there was an issue to take it up with him, thus protecting Andy.

When burly striker Diego Costa started his bullying ways against the Merseyside giants back in 2015, it was Jordan Henderson who faced up to the striker and stared down the Spanish international.

Henderson said this of the Costa confrontation:

“I didn’t want to make any ‘statement’, it was just in that game, he was trying to intimidate some of our younger players, which I didn’t really like,”

Via Sports Joe

As well giving his all for his team’s cause and do what’s expected of him, the twenty-nine year old will always have his teammate’s back.

That’s why Jordan Henderson was made Liverpool captain after Steven Gerrard left and that’s why he’s been a very successful leader at Anfield too!

Christian Pulisic Is Already Looking Like Chelsea’s New Maestro

Personally, I don’t like comparing footballers but Chelsea new boy Christian Pulisic will need to get used to it.

With former Blues maestro Eden Hazard now plying his trade Real Madrid, Chelsea supporters are on the lookout for a new creative hero. In that regard a lot is expected of American star Pulisic.

The Premier League giants bought Christian from Borussia Dortmund in a £58m deal (Source – BBC Sport).

Now one reason I don’t like comparisons is because most of the time you’ll see people compare a young player with one in their prime. So I wouldn’t compare twenty year old Pulisic with the Eden Hazard that’s just left Chelsea after seven years at Stamford Bridge.

They do have a few things in common though.

Both clearly like to be direct and attack opposition defences. They’re very good dribblers of the ball and have a good eye for a through pass.

I also think Pulisic, like Eden, prefers to be given added responsibility. While he was on the pitch in Chelsea’s Super Cup game against Champions League winners Liverpool, the young forward took all of his sides corners.

Christian Pulisic had a very good game before he was brought off in the seventy-third minute. He was the player that was a livewire for the Blues and always looking to make a positive impact. He wasn’t overawed by the occasion and looks to have settled in quickly at Stamford Bridge.

The US international cut in off the lefthand side and found a lovely pass back across to Olivier Giroud who managed to then give Frank Lampard’s team the lead. It was a sublime pass that slipped the forward through on goal.

Christian also drove down towards the touchline beating Joe Gomez and the wide-man then produced a superb ball across goal that was calling out for a teammate to tap it in. It almost looked as though the Chelsea players hadn’t kept up with the youngster on that occasion.

Pulisic then found the net himself, although that would get chopped off by the lineswoman after a VAR check. The attacker did well to escape the Liverpool defence, cut in onto his right before turning his shot beyond Reds keeper Adrian.

It was a very good outing for the creative forward in Turkey.

Many were surprised that Christian didn’t start in his side’s game during the opening weekend loss to Manchester United. In the end he got the last half-hour but again he looked sharp. In total he made twelve passes, one of which was deemed a key pass and recorded a 100% passing success rate (Stats – Whoscored).

I think one of the main reasons Lampard subbed the player last night was because he wants to start the forward in Chelsea’s next outing against Leicester City at The Bridge on Sunday.

While I think Pulisic has made a bright start to life with the London cracks, like this current Chelsea side he’s very much still a work in progress. There’s times when he needs to look up more when he is running at defences. I also think he will need to get used to the more physical side of the English game, at times he’s been easily brushed off the ball.

Interestingly his boss Frank Lampard has already suggested that people need to be patient when it comes to the American:

“Christian Pulisic is 20 years old and he’s come across from Dortmund. He will be a fantastic player for the club. He has got great ability. You saw little moments with his acceleration on the ball,”

“But I have also got other options in midfield and in those areas, and I don’t want to stick Christian straight into the fire without trying to help him along the way”

Goal.com

While I understand Lampard, I do hope he still gives Christian Pulisic plenty of starts this term.

I’m sure he will because the Blues boss will know that in the twenty year old forward he’s got a creative magician and he could be vital for his club this season and for many more to come!

Celtic’s Deep Rooted Problems – The Chief Executive, The Manager & The Captain

Celtic were unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League qualifying stages after they lost 4-3 at home to Romanian champions CFR Cluj (BBC Match Report).

For the second season running the Scottish Premiership champs have failed to reach Europe’s elite and money spinning group stages.

In both seasons it’s been Celtic’s own fault.

Last year they failed to bring in new recruits to bolster their squad for the difficulties qualifying brings. This term they’ve made more signings, it’s just for one reason or another they weren’t included in the starting line-up.

Some key people at Parkhead need to come out and accept blame.

Chief Executive Peter Lawwell might be a magician when it comes spreadsheets and bank balances but in the the transfer market Celtic lack ambition, and have done since Brendan Rodgers first season at the club in 2016.

On the football side of things Celtic lack a longterm first-team strategy. It’s all about bringing players to the fore and then selling them on for a healthy profit. Surely there has to be more ambition than that at Parkhead.

Personally I think Lawwell had his ‘moonbeam’ moment after the Scottish Cup final in May when he hurriedly announced that the club were keeping interim boss Neil Lennon on a full-time basis. It then emerged that Lennon was offered the managerial hotseat in the Hampden showers. It was such a bizarre announcement and one that wouldn’t be confirmed for a further few weeks.

In essence Lawwell returned to type after having maverick boss Brendan Rodgers in charge. Rodgers was a demanding manager and a boss that wanted Celtic to improve year on year and that meant competing on the European stage. To do that the club need to reinvest heavily and that’s clearly not Peter’s style, especially when you can spend millions on a new lighting system for (ironically) big European nights.

Another problem that arrives with Celtic failing to reach the Champions League group stages is that it impacts on their transfer policy. Not having the glamour European nights makes the club a less attractive prospect for potential signings. Plus The Hoops will also struggle to get premium fees for their talent. Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney didn’t receive huge transfers because of their domestic exploits, it was partly because they had proven themselves in UEFA’s top competitions.

I doubt Lawwell made any real attempts to convince Brendan to stay once Leicester City approached the Hoops gaffer. I think the Celtic Chief Exec was happy to go back to the norm.

The norm under Lawwell is to get in a manager that will appreciate the money tight ways of the football club and ultimately be a yes man.

In that regard he brought back Neil Lennon.

Now Lennon left during his first stint as Celtic boss due to him wanting the club to spend more money as he wanted to challenge more in Europe. But things have changed for Neil since 2014.

He had two unspectacular jobs at Bolton Wanderers and Hibs. His failures to succeed in those roles meant that he was now going to struggle to get a reputable job, then suddenly the Celtic one landed at his feet.

Lawwell knows that Lennon can bring league titles and he also now knows that his manager is just happy to be given a second chance and that means he probably won’t rock the boat.

The issue now is that Neil Lennon isn’t the greatest tactician or in fact coach, which he proved last night against Cluj.

When Celtic were trailing the tie at halftime, Neil didn’t make a tactical change to revitalise his pool of players and spark anything from the crowd. He just hoped that something would happen.

When they got into the lead as a team they couldn’t close the game out with just fourteen minutes to go in front of their own support. Worse still they’d go on to lose that match!

Lennon and his staff should’ve been calming things down and sending on defensive players that can help see out the result.

I also don’t get Lennon’s preference of Scott Bain over Craig Gordon in goals. I get why Brendan Rodgers would select Bain as he’s better with the ball at his feet but Neil just wants a shot-stopper and I think the experienced Gordon is better at keeping the ball out of the net in big games. I bet most Celtic fans would want a new number one.

Celtic spent around £11.7m on defensive recruits this summer. Yet out of the three new signings only right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed started, with £7m centre-back Christopher Jullien and left-back Boli Bolingoli on the bench.

£7m is the most the Glasgow giants have paid for a defender, yet the twenty-six year old Jullien still doesn’t seem to be up to speed even though he was signed in early July. If he’s fully fit then he should be in the team for the biggest game of the season so far!

Instead of using the £3m Boli, Lennon selected midfielder Callum McGregor as his left sided fullback. McGregor is a top player and he’ll always give 100% for the jersey but he’s the team’s most reliable midfielder and a goalscoring threat in Celtic’s biggest games. Ironically Bolingoli was dropped after giving his best performance on Saturday since he’s arrived in Scotland.

Lennon explained beforehand why he chose to make the change to his team:

 “I just wanted to get Ntcham into the team.”

“The more technicians in the team, the better.”

“There’s going to be an adaptation period I’m sure.”

Via The Scottish Sun

At least the Celtic manager is being honest here, it was clear that he wanted to shoehorn Ryan Christie, Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham and McGregor into the same line-up. The issue is that McGregor isn’t a good enough makeshift left-back and won’t give the team the same impact as he would from midfield and the side then becomes unbalanced.

Lennon has to be more ruthless in that situation and drop a player, probably the club captain in this case.

That leads me nicely onto captain Brown.

Clearly the player is passionate and loyal. He’s given everything he has to Celtic but at times you need to realise when a player needs to be eased out. That time could be now for Scott at Celtic.

That doesn’t mean bombing him out the team completely but if the team’s playing well and a lot of that is down to Ntcham, Christie and McGregor then you should go with the younger players.

Even though Scott Brown’s the most experienced player in the team, it was he who would inexplicably handle the ball inside his own box on seventy-fourth minute that allowed Cluj back into the game. That proved to be a very costly error.

Now i’m not putting all the blame onto Brown but personally I’d have selected the three in-form midfielders, the ones with more running in them. Then brought on the captain to get the game over the line.

Silly mistakes from top to bottom at the football club repeatedly hamper Celtic’s progress.

Yes they might win a ninth league title in a row come May, hell they might even win their fourth treble in a row by next summer but ultimately that isn’t progression that’s what’s expected.

For Celtic to improve then they need to gamble more and build a long-term strategy that would hopefully see an exciting brand of football on the park and get them back into the Champions League group stages.

Are Messrs Lawwell, Lennon and Brown the men to do it?

I really don’t think so!

Man Utd’s Solskjaer Should Create A Friendly Rivalry Between Forwards Martial & Rashford


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a big call when he agreed to sell striker Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan this summer (Via The Guardian).

The Manchester United boss didn’t bring in a replacement for the Belgian, instead he has decided to place all his trust in young hitmen Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

Both attackers have the potential to become world class goalscorers but neither have grabbed twenty Premier League goals in one season… Yet!

The duo will argue that they haven’t had enough time playing as a central striker to be judged on their scoring tallies.

It looks like the pair will get their chance this term!

Against Chelsea, Anthony was entrusted in leading the line. He did a good job as he took four shots and made four successful dribbles. Importantly he also managed to score a poachers goal as he tapped in an Andreas Pereira cross to score his first goal of the season.

It also became evident that Ole was keen to see Rashford and Martial rotate roles during the ninety minutes. So at times we saw Frenchman Martial on the left wing as Marcus took over the vacated central position.

The young English international expertly smashed home a penalty in the first-half before he superbly finished off his second which was majestically created by a wonderful pass from Paul Pogba.

Like Martial, Rashford also took four shots at goal as well as making three successful tackles.

In the end Man United thumped Frank Lampard’s Blues by a 4-0 scoreline (Sky Sports Match Report) with the strikers scoring three goals between them.

Solskjaer obviously has faith in his young forwards. He has given Martial his beloved number nine back and as soon as he arrived back at Old Trafford Ole made Rashford his club’s central striker ahead of the more experienced Lukaku.

The Man United gaffer has already stated that the plan is to rotate them throughout this campaign:

“Both Marcus and Anthony can do through the middle and left hand side.”

“Depends on how we see the opposition, and they might just be able to play together as a pair but so far both of them have done very well as a pair.”

Source The Express

What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should do now is start a friendly wager between his two hungry hitmen.

Who scores the most is the best and will get more game time as the central striker.

You just have to look at Liverpool and see how friendly competition can see two of your forwards can reach over twenty goals a season with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane hitting twenty-two league goals each last term.

Solskjaer could take inspiration from his own playing career at Manchester United to see how competition creates the best environment for success.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson the Norwegian had to vie with Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Teddy Sheringham to make the starting eleven. During that period United won their illustrious treble in 1999, with all four attackers playing a significant part!

If Ole Gunnar can get the same contribution from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford then maybe just maybe both can hit at least twenty goals this season and the club could possibly be challenging for silverware once again.